High prices dent buying, silver remains attractive

BENGALURU/MUMBAI (Reuters) - High prices prompted Asian consumers to sell back physical gold this week to lock in profits, though price dips still attracted buying as economic jitters burnished the metal’s appeal as a haven from risk.

FILE PHOTO: Customers select gold bracelets at Caibai Jewelry store, in Beijing, China, August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Interest in silver was also firm, with some consumers seeing it as undervalued, dealers said.

Global benchmark spot gold hit a six-year high on Tuesday and was headed for a third straight week of gains, up 1%. Silver was also on track for a 1.5% weekly rise.

“We’re consistently seeing people coming to sell gold,” said Brian Lan, managing director at Singapore dealer GoldSilver Central. “Refineries are all almost at maximum capacity now due to scrap gold selling.”

“On the other hand, we’re seeing more buying of silver because many investors see it as an undervalued asset.”

Consumers have also been buying gold every time there is a brief price dip, he added.

An inversion of the U.S. yield curve this week for the first time since 2007 exacerbated concerns a recession is on the way, prompting inflows into safe havens such as gold and the Japanese yen.

In top gold consumer China, premiums eased slightly to $6-$9 per ounce over the benchmark, from $9-$10 last week.

“Interest is coming mostly from the investment side,” said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.

In Singapore, gold was sold at a premium of $0.50-$0.80 an ounce, unchanged from the week ending August 2.

In India, demand remained subdued as domestic prices soared, tracking gains in overseas market and a weak rupee. Gold futures hit a record high of 38,666 Indian rupees ($543.44) per 10 grams earlier this week.

“People are making smaller purchases than normal due to the price rise,” said B Govindan, chairman of Kochi-based Bhima Jewellery.

Dealers offered discounts of up to $33 an ounce over official domestic prices, down from last week’s $37 discounts, which were the highest since August 2016. The domestic price includes a 12.5% import tax and 3% sales tax.

Jewelers were not placing new orders due to weak retail demand, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a private bullion importing bank, adding “everyone is desperately waiting for a price correction”.

India’s gold imports in July plunged 55% from a year ago to a three-year low.

In Hong Kong, premiums were unchanged at $0.50-$1.20. The trade war and months of protests have sparked fears of a recession in the financial hub.

“Demand is very weak because of high prices and the unrest has affected the retail market, especially jewelry demand,” said a bullion dealer in Hong Kong.

In Japan, gold was sold at par versus the benchmark compared with $0.25 discounts last week, with most investors selling gold because of the rising yen, a Tokyo-based trader said.

GRAPHIC: India's gold market - here

Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Arpan Varghese and Jan Harvey